Designer Athena Procopiou has the compelling back-story of a true artist. Born in Athens, she moved to Switzerland at age three with her family. At age seven she started playing piano and soon after began performing concerts in Geneva.
After finishing school, at 19, Athena moved to Paris, still returning to Geneva each weekend to perform. She studied art history at Christie’s in Paris before moving to London to study graphic design and illustration at the prestigious Central St Martins.
“I took the Eurostar to St Martins and showed them my portfolio and that was it,” Athena says. While initially focused on graphic design, Athena’s interest in fashion became more prominent with time. After completing her MBA, an escape from academia soon beckoned. Athena travelled around Australia for what was meant to be two months but ended up being eight.
“I loved Australia, I had the time of my life really,” she says. Upon returning to Europe Athena took on some freelance jobs working with fashion designers in Paris and Geneva, but found it wasn’t where her passion lay. “I wanted to do something on my own, so I started doing scarves,” Athena tells, “I love accessories.” Athena’s scarves are now stocked in over 15 countries including Liberty in London and Barney’s in New York.
The designer has already expanded to kaftans and is working towards more structured garments. “I really hope I can work with pattern cutters and fashion designers and even work for some labels,” she says.
“My own label is doing well but I love collaborations; you learn so much more. I love learning and learning. Once I reach what I wanted to achieve then I move onto something else.” Athena’s latest spring/summer 2012 collection, entitled “Frida” is inspired by gypsies, flamenco dancers and Southern Spanish style. Hanging on racks in the artist’s Shoreditch studio, each scarf is an intricately detailed kaleidoscope of colour.
“In all the scarves you will see flowers, because flamenco dancers always wear flowers everywhere, and it’s all inspired by patterns.” Moroccan style, which southern Spain is inspired by, is evident in mosaic tiling patterns, flowers and explosion of colours, particularly shades of blue. “You have to travel for inspiration, you couldn’t find this kind of feeling here,” Athena says.
Each scarf takes around three hours to create, working with lots of photos and illustrations, Athena says. “I try to travel for my collections. For the next one, I want to do something based around the Mediterranean.”
The scarf designs are printed digitally onto fabric, which is a blend of cashmere. “It’s good for winter and summer; it’s so multi-seasonal,” the designer says. Asked what makes an outfit, the designer is all about scarves, hats, jewellery and embellishments. “I believe you can buy something very simple, like a dress, and just with accessories make it look amazing. It’s all about accessorising.”
While an avid traveller, the 34-year old has been calling London home since the late ’90s and describes it, like many others, as a “love hate” relationship.
“I love London but sometimes I hate it so much because of the weather. It gets dark quite fast and sometimes you get quite depressed but London feels like home.” As a “true Greek” Athena is from a close-knit family and likes to be able to visit them in Switzerland, Greece and Cyprus. She was married in Mykonos in June this year.
I comment on how much the designer has been able to fit into her 34 years, and she responds modestly with a modest raised eyebrow, “Really? I feel like I’ve done nothing. “I’m happy with my life of course, and you always have secret dreams, but what can we do? You should enjoy your life how it is, try to make the most out of it and of what you have. Enjoy every day.”
Athena’s spring/summer 2012 collection will be released in December, available online at www.netaporter.com and in store at the New Guard in Unley, South Australia.